With the explosion of tabloid journalism in the past couple years as well as the rise of celeb news blogs and websites, it seems like slipping past the crowds unnoticed is a thing of the past in Hollywood. Stars such as Jennifer Lopez, as Mommywood reported last week, are reportedly spending huge amounts on safety. (Sources claim that J. Lo added eight new members to her security team, spending $600,000 to keep her new twins safe). Last week, Victoria Beckham also enlisted some extra hands for her son Brooklyn’s birthday to make sure her and her children especially didn’t have to worry about unwanted guests.
There have always been crazies trying to get close to many A-list moms and dads — Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Colin Farrell are just some of the stars dealing with stalkers. But now that photos of Hollywood families can garner millions of dollars, child safety and protection from the shutterbug hordes has never been more important.
Two celeb parents spoke out last week about the issue. Ryan Philippe, formerly married to Reese Witherspoon, told W magazine that he spends,”a lot of time just holed up in my house [with children Ava and Deacon]… I’m thinking of leaving here.” Ryan calls Los Angeles and the celebrity scene “a really disturbing environment to bring up a child in.” He said that going out of his house always becomes a production and it affects his children negatively. “I don’t really go out because I know it’s going to turn into a photo shoot,” Ryan said. “It’s really scarring. It definitely does a number on my eight-year-old daughter. . . She worries about what she’s wearing when she leaves the house because she knows her picture will be taken.” Not only is Ryan seeing his daughter’s self-consciousness growing because of the constant photographs, her quality of life is also being affected. “She’s worried about friends at school who come up to her and say they see her in magazines,” he said.
Mary-Louise Parker, mom of two kids, says that the constant photographs come with the territory of being in the spotlight, but she can’t grasp why there aren’t any boundaries. As she told the New York Times, “I understand the fascination, and I understand the curiosity, but at the same time I understand the fascination and curiosity of staring at someone who has fallen off their bicycle and has a bloody nose,” she said. “Does that mean you should stand there and point and look at them as though they can’t see you? I don’t think so. Does that mean you should take a picture of them? Probably not. Does that mean you should take out your cell phone and film them so you can put it on YouTube?”
On the other side of the spectrum is Denise Richards, who is willingly placing daughters Sam and Lola in the spotlight with her new reality show, which is still untitled as of now. Sensing that this would adversely affect his children, ex-husband Charlie Sheen tried to stop their appearing in the show with legal action. His request was overturned, when a judge said he couldn’t see the show causing their children legitimate harm.
Also willing to place her daughters in the center of public scrutiny is Dina Lohan, Lindsay’s mother, who also has a 14-year-old named Ali. She is set to premiere her new reality show this summer on the E! channel, and the subject centers on her adventures cultivating young Ali’s acting career. Lisa Berger, a E! network spokesperson told People magazine, “The Lohans are one of the most intriguing families in the entertainment industry today. This is a family that knows how to roll with the punches and come out on top. Dina is an incredibly hard-working, passionate mom that I think our viewers will find both relatable and highly entertaining.”
When children’s lives become entertainment, it’s clear there’s is a problem. What’s interesting to me is how extreme both sides of the spectrum are. A-list stars, such as Ryan and Mary-Louise, J. Lo and Posh, will do whatever they can to help protect their children from the three-ring paparazzi circus that seems to go hand-in-hand with their jobs today. But moms such as Denise and Dina invite the media coverage.
Does putting kids on TV really endanger them? I searched for answer from Kathleen Baty, also known as the Safety Chick. This public advocate helped pass the first national anti-stalking law after she was the victim of a kidnap attempt by an obsessive stalker. “After fifteen years of living like a hunted animal, I came to the realization that living weak and in fear was going to destroy me if I didn’t turn the negative into a positive. That meant becoming proactive,” she writes on her website – www.safetychick.com. I spoke with her about Hollywood moms putting their kids on TV, despite the growing animosity in Hollywood to that sort of self-promotion and the involvement of their children in their high-profile careers.
Kathleen offered her perspective on the issue: “The bottom line is: if somebody breaks the law, they break the law. Just because someone is on TV, does that mean that people should stalk them?” She said that moms like Denise and Dina are in the right to choose to be on TV–using a seemingly unconventional example. Kathleen says a rape victim should not be blamed for her choice of clothing; likewise these celeb moms shouldn’t be accused of endangering their children for putting them on TV.
Celebrity or not, we all can take steps to keeping our children safe. Here are some tips the Safety Chick shared with me:
- The bottom line: No matter who you are how old you are, crime knows no boundaries. Everyone has got to make the decision to care about her personal safety.
- Identify your intuitive body signals. Celebrities have a heightened sense of visibility, and they have added security, but just like the rest of us, they come in contact with other people everyday. We all need to listen to our bodies to learn what signals they put out when something is not right.
- Stalking or trouble occurs the moment you feel in fear of your personal safely. Trust your gut.
- Build a perimeter of safety around your family with security systems, guards, etc. Keeping one’s residence private is difficult when you are in the public eye. Don’t think that you can avoid it. Only allow appropriate people – gardeners and other household helpers, for example, on the property.
- When it comes to your children, don’t make them paranoid about their safety. Do help them be smart about it. Teach them that there is safety in numbers and to always keep a buddy close by.
- Teach your children to trust their gut instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, if they feel uncomfortable, they need to know they can remove themselves from any situation that makes them feel uncomfortable or doesn’t feel right. Develop a code with kids so they can tell you if they need you to come pick them.
- Don’t list your personal information in directories for your school or church, Anybody who really knows you or your children will have your number.
- Work with those who run your children’s schools, after-school activity centers, as well as those where you work, or any other place you frequent. Make sure they contact you (or your security team, if you’re a celebrity mom) if they sense that a suspicious person is trying to find out information about you or your kids.
- If there is someone who sends up a red flag for you or your child, according to stalking laws, you have to make it clear to that person that you don’t want any further contact with him or her. If the behavior continues, you need to save all evidence of calls, emails, etc and immediately go to the local police station and file a police report. Every time something happens, you need to file a report. You have to be your own advocate. Start a stalking log. Cameras can help capture behavior — keep one with you or place cameras around your home. Once you can prove a person is overstepping his boundaries, police can step in and help you.
- Think of your safety training and intuition development like an athlete who trains. It should be as routine as brushing your teeth in the morning. You should spend as much time spending time of personal safety as you do worrying if your butt looks fat!
Kathleen says that if you make a commitment to living an empowered, confident lifestyle, the odds of being a victim of a random act of violence are slim to none. The first step is making the decision to be proactive about your personal safety as well as that of your children.